How did we get here? : LUSENET : A Village Commons : One Thread

It is very apparent to all of us that we all different backgrounds, different hobbies, different income levels, etc. So how did we all come to regard homesteading as a viable life style? Was it a single event? Were your raised in a homesteading environment? How did you conclude that a simpler life was for you?

I was raised in a small town (35,000 pop., now 105,000) in a region where citrus and other agricultural crops are and were grown. It was pretty much "small town America"; we could walk downtown as small children with little supervision. My dad was an architect, my mother an elementary school teacher. My brother and I didn't receive a lot of material things, but we received more than what we required. I grew up with hunting and fishing available in our neighborhood, rabbits in the orchards and fields, bass and catfish in our local irrigation canals. It was a GOOD beginning, I couldn't want for a better start in life.

In high school, I noticed that the cliques were formed from various interests, many of which started with having or using money. You had to drive this certain car to be accepted (mine was a '66 Volkswagon Beetle, man what times!) to 'belong' here or there. I didn't participate in extra curricular activities, that would take away from hunting and fishing.

I went to college in San Antonio, a huge change from my early years, and couldn't stand the traffic. Man, rush hour, forget this. I moved back as soon as possible, where I have lived for the past 16 plus years. The region has grown much, the agricultural industry, especially citrus, has been hit twice by hard freezes in 1983 and 1989, killing thousands of acres of orange/grapefruit groves. NAFTA has played a large part in our growth; many jobs now depend on our free trade with Mexico. I wish the politicians had just left us alone. Selfish, on my part, I know, but what changes NAFTA has wrought.

I chose my wife (she will argue about who chose who), on this decision: do you require a high maintenance lifestyle to be happy. I was lucky to have found her; she too was raised rurally and in common with me find it hard to live in the big city. We have both concluded that we will live in the country eventually, meantime learning all the skills and practicing what we can living where we do. We want our children (one three year old, another on the way) to have the same beginning we did. We live in a small city of just over 30,000 people now and will probably live there for a while.

So what are your stories? C'mon, don't be shy, we all have stories to tell.

-- j.r. guerra (, August 03, 2001


grew up in the "burbs" of Detroit., never had an interest in gardening,, hunting,,fishing, ect,, till I hit about 12. Exploded from there,, had my own garden in the back yard at 14, mom finally let me,, I was growing corn and potatoes in boxes in the bedroom. Now,, I live "UP NORTH", lots of trees,, lots of water,, plenty to shoot and catch,, only thing is,, the soil isnt very good,,, but IM working on it.

-- Stan (, August 03, 2001.

I grew up in a fairly small town close to a small city. My parents were professionals but we lived in what was then a rural/suburban area. We lived on a 3 1/2 acre lot which allowed me to indulge in my passion for horses, cows, etc. Most of the kids in my neighborhood also had horses and raised livestock for 4-H and/or FFA. Because I wanted to become a vet I took a lot of ag classes (esp animal husbandry) in jr high and high school. Our area still had a very strong rural tradition at the time, so there were good ag departments in most of the schools then. By the time I graduated from high school I had gotten heavily into showing horses, so I did not go straight to college but instead went to NM to work on a ranch. Eventually, I decided not to be a vet but went to college anyway, where I discovered theater for the first time (I had already been working in the music business to support my horse habit!). I knew that I wanted to live in the country and try to be self-sufficient but knew that it would take a lot of money to live the simple life! So, I kept working in the entertainment business, and 18 years later I am still trying to tear myself away from it! I get job offers all the time from companies in NY, London, LA, etc., but I do not ever want to live in any of those places. I live 8 miles from where I grew up; my parents still live in the same house; and most of my siblings and their families are still in the area. To me, the quality of life afforded by small-town living dramatically exceeds anything that I have experienced in the city. (I did live in Dallas for 4 years early in my career, but moved back home as soon as I has established myself as a freelancer). I live in a town where chance encounters with relatives are not uncommon; where a grandmother can call her 8 year old grandson on the phone and get him to ride his bike the 2 miles to her house to help entertain his 4 little girl cousins whom she is babysitting; where people know and like their neighbors; where my nephews attend the same elementary school that their aunts and uncles attended 30 years ago; where one neighbor's 5 year old son invites my mom to his school on visitor's day because his own parents are at work during the day; where my own front porch is never empty because at least one neighbor makes the 3/10 mile excursion back to my house every day just to sit and visit; where I can live well enough on my part-time income to be able to spend time at home to receive those visitors!; and where all of my neighbors, and I, help each other out- like Al using Bob's pastures because he doesn't have enough grazing for his cows; Al also uses my pasture, too, and his daughter takes care of my chickens when I am away; Ed's kids have horses on my pasture, and this morning Ed came over to offer to fix my mower; I mowed Bob's pastures this spring when he was too sick to keep them up himself; when I needed an electric fence around my garden, Bob brought me an extra one of his- and so on. One of the things I love the most about small towns is that people seem to realize that they need to get along with others, and I think they try harder not to give in to petty differences. An example of this is that one neighbor here tends to take a lot more than he gives, and makes a lot of promises that he never keeps. None of the other neighbors like that, but we all put up with it because we know that he is still going to be our neighbor tomorrow and nobody wants to upset the great vibe that we have going here. I also credit small town living with helping me to maintain "balance" when I am out in the larger world- for example, in my business we tend to get pretty spoiled as we travel around. Working with celebrities has it's upside and we come to expect "star treatment" wherever we go. One of my good friends, on a bad day, got really rude with a hotel clerk when there were problems with our rooms. I explained to him that I could never get away with that kind of behavior at home, cause you never know when that hotel clerk might turn out to be a member of my dad's church, or my nephews' teacher or coach- so, I stay on my best behavior just in case! As for self sufficiency, the reasons are many, including health and environmental factors; waste reduction and conservation; quality of home grown vs store bought foods and other items; the satisfaction which I derive from providing things for myself and my family and friends; and a decreased dependence upon outside suppliers. Like j.r. I hate the traffic in cities and I swear I could not keep a job if I had to get up and commute to work in traffic every day- too stressful for me. If I ever have kids of my own I hope that I too, can offer them the advantages of country/small town living that I enjoyed as a child.

-- Elizabeth (, August 03, 2001.

I took up the lifestyle because of the lack of stress, the lack of compitishion, I like to sleep late, I will not have a boss, I got tired of people trying to manipulate me with guilt trips and simuluar ploys.

My 650,000 hours on this earth will be spent as I want them to be spent. The trapping of credit cards, mortgagues, comittiments, ect. are for people who want them. Slave for 50 to 60 hours a week "just to have something" no way. I'll take a cave or a tar paper shack first, the quote from the hippy era was "I am not in this world to live up to your standards" still holds.

I keep bees, earthworms, cut flowers; things that seldom need tending more than once a week, if I want to put the poles in the van and go to the coast fine, I can do it. I could not do that if I had a mortgague or a job....

-- mitch hearn (, August 03, 2001.

How did I get here?  That's a real good question.  Wish I knew the answer.  <VBG>

Seriously, it was some luck and some hard work and lots of stumbling around, not knowing what the he** I was doing or where I was going.

To start with, my dad was older when he married my mother.  As a kid, most of my same age peers had grandparents my dad's age (he was 39 when I was born).  We grew up in a very small mostly farm town, Fairborn Ohio.  There was a field of corn across the street from the first house we lived in.  I don't imagine there were 2,000 people in that town in the early 60s.

We had 2 apple trees, 3 plum trees, a sour cherry tree; 3 crabapple trees (crabapple jelly is MUCH better than plain old apple jelly, IMNSHO).  A mulberry tree that mostly went to the birds.  2 grape vines on an old grape arbor.  A quince tree.  The house was a then 100+ year old farmhouse that had been moved when they built Huffman Dam.  There was a cistern in the basement, which we used as a storm cellar.  We had chickens and rabbits, but never ate any of them.  We had a garden that took up half the back yard.  There was a pear tree, and a peach tree that was never much good.  We made so much jelly we had a three year back log, even with a family of 7 eating it near every day and giving it away as gifts.  I did all the cooking and canning from the time I was 6.  I thought this was the way EVERYBODY lived; didn't realize until I was in college that I was essentially a generation out of step.

Well, got into college, ended up in a computer science degree program.  Married a guy from India who made noises like he agreed with me about my plan of a couple of acres more or less in the country with a big garden and a small orchard.  Post-marriage, those noises stopped and I ended up in suburban hell with a small garden and a few fruit trees as "landscape items".  Years later, during marital counseling (just shortly pre-divorce) he admitted that he had been stringing me along the whole time - he thought I wouldn't date him if he didn't lie about agreeing with my long term goals, and said that as my husband it was his "duty" to teach me better.  Said he thought I'd change ... Like I had a clue.

The divorce really threw me for a loop.  I really intended to stay married forever, had done everything humanly possible (I thought) to make sure I was hooking up with someone like minded and compatible, only to find I'd been lied to and led down the garden path.  Actually, it was a suburban yuppie path.  If it HAD been a garden path, it might not have been so bad ... LOL!

At any rate, I was really lost, and stayed that way for a long time.  Was working in high tech, high power career, making lots of money but no direction.  Basically spending it almost as fast as I made it, but shortly post divorce I had worked my way out of debt so at least didn't have that dragging me down.  Work as a defense contractor had me hopping from one side of the country to the other, even offshore, as I bounced from Ohio to Puerto Rico to Alabama to Oregon (where I worked for private industry for a change).

Along the way I stumbled around trying to find some way to get back to where I had always wanted to be - a small place in the country, living modestly.  It didn't take long for me to discover that I was highly unlikely to meet a man who was remotely interested in the lifestyle I wanted - I couldn't even find anyone who would TOLERATE my "weird" ideas.  Every relationship ended up with some guy "teaching me better".  I finally gave up on the whole dating thing - particularly after a bout of 3 or 4 guys in a row who turned out to be "cheating" on a wife or girlfriend.  They all said the same thing - :"It's not like I lied to you - you never ASKED."  Sheesh!  If you have to ask, its not WORTH asking...

Which seemed to put my goal even further out of reach - how could I hope to do this on my own, with a son to raise to boot?  I even checked into communes.  There was the suburban enclave whose members were obviously trying to keep out the "wrong element" (e.g., people of the darker persuasion).  There was a group marriage consisting of something like 162 women and 97 men - heck, its tough enough to come up with ONE person I would feel comfortable getting up close and personal with, let alone 97 of 'em!  Besides which, the odds really didn't look to good for the girls there ...  There was the group in Colorado building a landing pad for space aliens.  There were nudists, wife swappers, religious communities, political enclaves, and places where they had carried "collectivism" to the point where they expected me to give up my kid to be raised in a commune creche - I THINK NOT!  But nowhere was there a group I felt I could live with - SAFELY, without fear of being voted out ala "Survivors".  Where some things could be shared but other things were strictly private.  Every commune I looked into was an all or nothing proposition.

I really started to feel hopeless.  Careerwise, I was drifting, because my job was just a job, not an end in and of itself.  I didn't display the proper company attitude.  I wouldn't work overtime at the expense of the time I needed to spend with my son.  I had less than no intention of spending every waking hour not actually at work studying on what SHOULD have been my own time, to "keep up" my professional skills.  I wanted out, and wanted out bad, but it just seemed there was nowhere to go.  The harder I worked, the more money I made, the further away from my goal I seemed to be.  I made more money in Portland OR than I ever expected to make in my life - and spent more, on rent and other living expenses, than in my worst nightmares ($1200 a monthy to rent a house!)  Land was $20k an acre and up.  Taxes were astronomical.  No way, no way out ...

Then, I found the homestead e-mail list.  Here were hundreds of folks who were living the way I wanted to live - even a bit beyond (I never imagined livestock as part of my plans, or more than just a couple of acres of land).  They suggested book titles.  I started to read, corresponded with other homesteaders.  First there was John Seymours "Fat of the Land: Family Farming on Five Acres or Less".  Then there was Gene Logsdon's "Homesteading" and "Two Acre Eden", and that was it - I was hooked.  Gene Logsdon's work quickly became the inspiration and the beacon that led me out of the yuppie corporate rat maze in which I was so thoroughly and (I feared) hopelessly lost.

It started out as a five year plan to buy my land outright and save up the money for equipment and expenses, and rapidly turned into a three year plan with just the bare necessities, as the situation (workwise) worsened (I was working for a big company on the skids, big-time, people were quitting in droves and the PTB were basically pretty abusive to the employees who stuck around).

The day I had a guy scream at me and threaten to turn ME over to human resources for sexual harrassment - after I had asked him politely to please not touch me again - was the day I had had enough.  In less than a year, I was out of there and on my way to 26 acres of bare land in Missouri.

It was 3 years ago last week that we first came out here.  Had nothing but a tent, a storage locker full of my belongings, my brother's truck, and my Hyundai.  Oh yeah, and 2 dogs, 1 cat, a cockatiel, and my then 13 year old teenage son.

Within a week or two of when I bought this 14' travel trailer (in October of that year), the tent ripped down the middle.  Shortly thereafter my brother wrecked his truck, which I had like $1200 invested in (could have bought my own truck for that).  The promised (by my brother) 12x20 shed roofed building with loft never got any further along than a hole in the ground.  I had the well drilled, but didn't have the money for the pump and pressure tank.  We were hauling water from town in five gallon containers.  Then my brother met a woman in town and moved in with her, eventually married her - and left me out here on my own.  Finally, more than a year after our arrival, with the help of friends, I got the posts erected for my pole framed house.  It will be two years ago next Friday.

It's been a long haul.  The house is ALMOST closed in, ALMOST far enough along to live in (even if its not finished yet).  It's been ALMOST ready since last October.  Money has been a constant concern.  Every time I thought I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, I found out it was another train.  <VBG>  Managed to dodge most of them and keep going.  Jobs out here for skill-less college grads are few and far between, and I quickly discovered that I was going to have to lie about my level of education.  Too many yuppie escapees have come out here (I've watched quite a few in the three years I've been here), strutted around like Lords and Ladies, expecting to get the creme de la creme of all available jobs because they have a College Degree, not willing to get their hands dirty, not willing to work hard, not willing to stick with it - I can hardly blame folks for being hesitant to hire another one (me).

But, things are looking up of late (some things, anyway, LOL!).  I have a steady job, and with no debt load whatsoever, am now seeing enough disposable income that I can actually hire some of this construction work done.  Soon I'll have my hauling vehicle (a '78 Ford Econo-Van) back on the road, and will be able to buy the supplies I need.  I can get rock dumped on my driveway, which is plain dirt (I guess in some respects the drought has been a GOOD thing, because if it rained like normal up here I'd be wallowing in mud).  Jeez, maybe I can even get out of this @*#$& camper at long last!  Get my books out of storage!

The land to the south of me has been abandoned for the third time.  I was tempted - briefly - to try to buy it - its 40 acres and includes a 5 acre corner cut out of my pasture to give road access to the back parcel.  The loan on it is $21,000.  It was tempting, but ... aside from that parcels history (first guy who owned it woke up one night and shot his wife and three kids and then himself, should have started with himself and saved us all a lot of trouble, seems to me, then the second folks who bought it abandoned it after apparently sending all their money up one or both of their noses, now the third couple have abandoned it after a bad winter ran his concrete business into the ground, makes you wonder if its cursed ...).  Well, it would mean taking on five to ten years of indebtedness, committing myself to holding down an outside job for that entire period.  Without it, I'm doing fine - will be able to finish the house, erect a pole barn in the spring, put in all the fencing I need and finish the chicken coop, run power and water to the chicken coop/garden area, also in the spring.  I can even start thinking again about putting up that geodesic dome I wanted so badly, and turning the current house into a workshop.  So, I'm not going to do it.  I've got enough.

Isn't that what this is all about?

-- Sojourner (notime4@summer.spam), August 03, 2001.

How did I get here? Gee, I don't know. Where am I?

-- paul (, August 04, 2001.

Born in NC. Immediately relocated to California. After 6 months said had enough. (actually ****socalled parent said) Shiped me home on a plane (such a nice stewardess) Lived with garndma till 4 yrs old then off to my aunts farm. Well you think you lived rough? Ha! We didn't have running water till 1976. Inside plumbing in 1979. I had never watched tv until 1977 when a cousin pawned his to my aunt for $5.00. It was a b&w model. (try to imagine all my "wonderful" peers telling me about this cartoon and that cartoon and Ken why are you wearing those shoes?"}

Well survival is a skill you learn. So I learned. Books became my "great escape" Fueld by an imagination and time to read I learned a lot about world events, history and Science Fiction.

Today my social skills are tested when I get near a crowd. Luckily I married well and my wife has the charm to handle any group of people. My daughter knows no strangers and hates when we take "TV FREE" weeks. Her little peers thinks her Daddy is "NUTS".

Living in the country is the only way I can maintain sanity. We tried living in town. Lasted till the 6-month lease was up. I had rather live in a tent out in rural america a year rather than 1 night in apartment complex.

Theres lots more but the puppies are hungry so I guess its time to fix them a bottle and help sweet Pea feed her brood. Did I mention all 6 pups are boys?

-- Kenneth in N.C. (, August 04, 2001.

I was raised from the time I was 7 in a little southern town where the mayor won by a landslide knocking on all 7500 doors in 1968. It used to be illegal to make lefthand turns on Mainstreet on Saturday only (they had a little pylon sign the cops put in the middle of both intersections). They have a gazebo and old depot in the middle of town. After tech school and studying CIS and electronics, I went to the larger cities for work. After 20 years, I asked my company to land me closer to home (which is now 25,000 instead of 7500)and I witnessed the electronics, PC and internet technology boom. Then in '98 through Y2K, I saw how in the dark the technology world really is and how no one understood "canned" hardware (I still remember my CIS instructor teaching us the protocol for making our programs "linkable" to other funtion routines). These concerns worried us , then my wife found Countryside magazine offered in our electric co-op publication and we prepared for what turned out to be a "non event". However, we found it more comfortable suspending ourselves "in the middle" drawing the best of both , the technology world and my country raisings. I opted out of promotions and payraise potential in exchange for health insurance, flexible schedule and extra daytime to pursue my interests at home. We feed ourselves now with the skills I learned as a child and these forums. I tinker with older generation computer gear that I salvage for free or barter for so that I can stay online. I use solar backup to reduce but not eliminate our grid dependence. An advantage to being in the middle of the two societies is that I can easily slide in either directrion to provide the most for my family with the most ease and greatest success possible. And best of all, I have chosen a path filled with folks moving fast enough to get there, but slow enough to smell the smells and see the sites and watch the trains crawl across the crossing, not "rat racers" on metro pavement , chasing lifestyles and careers while seeing only a blur passing by and hearing their blood swooshing through their jugulars as they curse the train and catch their breath. One of my favorite pastimes is being the first car at the crossing so that I can wave to the engineer and hear him give the long wail while folks behind are cursing me to get back in the truck (I sit on the hood counting cars until I see the end of the train, then get back in and proceed when the gates rise, so there is no lost time to the folks behind me). Guess I'm the "weird one" in town, but I figure in the end we all buy the same size piece of property , 3 ft wide 6 1/2 ft long and 6 ft deep (and WE get to be the mineral rights on it) and thats one "homestead" I'd like to take as long as I can to move to :>)

-- Jay Blair in N. AL (, August 04, 2001.

My family moved to the country when I was 3 to basically deserted family land. The house was a small 5 room clapboard house, wood heat only, no insulation, no water and an outhouse. We were 10 in all, I was no. 7 kid. We had 9 acres with various animals. Dad commuted 70 miles 1 way to work. I still live on the same land. Been a machinist for 15 years. Got married in 92 to a city girl who wanted to be country girl. We have 2 girls and 1 boy(4-7 years old). You could not ask for better kids. We have cows,pigs,rabbits,chickens and pygmy goats. We both like antique tractors (3 Farmalls) although I think I like them more. I work 50 hour weeks and my wife is a full time housewife. We built our own house and every other building,fence etc. on our own. We are completely debt free for the last year. I don't think you can remain completely debt free but you can be close. I would like to buy more land sometime and be a full time farmer but??? I dissagree that this is a stress free livestyle, work is a lot easier. I do think the stress is different if it is something that you want and like to do. This year we got cows,had 2 calves,put up 600 bales of hay,lost 3 rabbits,lost 7 piglets,had 6 piglets,3 chicks and as of yesterday 7 baby bunnies. It is a relief to go to work to rest sometimes. BTW this site seems to be smoother and less hostile than Countryside. Goodnight

-- Tom (, August 06, 2001.

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